Category Archives: Dark Age London

Kingston

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Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “London Loop” (London Outer Orbital Path)  walk …

Kingston was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 838 as Cynings tun, meaning the king’s estate or manor, and alluding to the fact that in Saxon times it was owned by the  king.

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Seven Saxon kings are reputed to have been crowned here, on a site now occupied by the church of All Saints, including  Athelstan, the first king of the united England, in 924/925.

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The nearby Market Place is a Scheduled Conservation area, with some buildings purporting to date back to the  fifteenth or sixteenth centuries.

Church of All Saints

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The church of All Saints was originally built in the twelfth century, around 1130, on the site of an earlier, Saxon church dedicated to St Mary, although it has subsequently been much modified, most notably in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

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A surviving part of the wall of the Saxon church  may be seen in the churchyard.

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There are a number of interesting surviving Medieval and post-Medieval features in the interior,

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including part of a late tenth- or eleventh- century Saxon cross-shaft,

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fourteenth-century wall painting of St Blaise,

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and the early seventeenth-century tomb of Sir Anthony Benn.

Saint Olav(e)

On this day in 1030, the Norwegian King Olav II was killed fighting the Danish Vikings at the Battle of Stiklestad.  A year later, he was canonised by the  English Bishop of Selsey, Grimkell or Grimketel (the local canonisation was later confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1164).

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In the later Middle Ages, Olav’s tomb, in the most northerly cathedral in Christendom, in Nidaros [Trondheim], became an important pilgrimage site, and the centre of a widespread “cult of Olav”.

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Interestingly, a  number of churches in and around the City of London are  dedicated to St Olav(e),  including  St Olave Hart Street (pictured, above) …

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… St Nicholas Olave, St Olave Jewry and St Olave Silver Street (pictured, above) in the City …

4 - Mosaic of St Olave, site of former church of St Olave Southwark

… St Olave in Southwark …

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…  and St Olave in Rotherhithe.

This is because, in 1014, Olav Haraldsson, as he then was, was an ally of the Saxon English, under Ethelred “The Unready”, in their fight against the against the Viking Danish, under Cnut, and he helped relieve  Saxon London from Viking occupation  (albeit only temporarily).

According to the “Olaf Sagas”, he destroyed the Saxon incarnation of London Bridge, and the Viking army assembled on it poised to attack, by pulling it down with ropes tied to his long-boats.

The  court poet Ottar Svarte wrote, in the eleventh century, and Snorri Sturluson rewrote, in the thirteenth:

“London Bridge is broken down.

Gold is won, and bright renown.

Shields resounding, war-horns sounding,

Hild is shouting in the din!

Arrows singing, mail-coats ringing-

Odin makes our Olaf win!”

Many believe this to be the origin of the much-loved nursery-rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”.